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Placement Test: Breakdown

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When Eddie arrived at the Jasmine Summers Administration Building for his placement test, he found the gym teacher there ready to greet him with a smile and a handshake. Alan Archer was a big guy with faded blonde hair, with the athlete's build and weathered face of a lot of veteran gym teachers. "Hey there, Eddie, nice to finally meet you. Did you have any questions before we head down and get your test started?" He walked into the building with the young man as they talked, the hum of air conditioning the only real sound inside. Things were quiet in the summer around here!

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Um, Yes, actually. I am kind of new in town, and despite asking some of my friends, none of them could really tell me what these tests entail. I guess my question is: How does this thing exactly work?

Eddie matched stride with the gym teacher. Which was a little difficult because he was not as tall as the man.

As always he had his iPOD going and was listening to his headphones. The volume was low enough that he was still able to hear the teacher, though.

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"Well, we're going to give you a chance to show us what you can do," said Archer with an easy smile as he led the boy into what looked like a supply closet. "There's no way to fail these tests; there aren't any wrong answers. You're going to show us your skills and your powers, so we can find the best way to teach you how to use them safely and properly. Mind the step." He closed the closet door behind them, and the closet rumbled before Breakdown felt a sinking feeling in his ears. They were going down!

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"Alright, that's good to know," Eddie replied to Archer's explanation feeling greatly relieved.

And here I was worried I would screw this up so badly that they wouldn't accept me into classes or something. Eddie thought

After Archer closed the closet door, Eddie was puzzled. Um...Why is he...?

Then the floor almost dropped out from under him. "Woah!" he gasped in shock. "Is this thing some sort of elevator? Where is it taking us?"

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"We're going down to your training room, Eddie," said Archer affably. "Now, I know you signed the usual confidentiality forms, so I don't need to worry about you telling the world about what you're going to see down here. We keep our students' privacy for a reason." After a few moments, he opened the doors and revealed a gleaming metallic hallway down below, a place of linoleum floors and polished metal walls, more like a corridor on Star Trek than anything Eddie had seen up top. Archer walked them down the hallway towards a large set of two double doors. "We make sure our students get nothing but the best."

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"Woah..." Was all Eddie was able to get out again. He was not quite speechless with awe.

I've never even SEEN this kind of thing above ground. How the hell did they get this down here? His questions remained only in his head.

"Yeah... No problem, I won't tell anybody." He said with a pair of wide gazing eyes.

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Archer tapped in a few buttons on the side of the big double doors, opening them up with a rumble to expose an oddly familiar room of greyscale squares up on metal walls. "You ever watch Star Trek?" Archer asked as he and Eddie walked into the big room together. "The Doom Room is our own little holodeck...except it's very real. This is where we're going to do our thing, Eddie. Do you need to hit the john or the drinking fountain before we start? This may take a little bit."

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"Yea, lemme go clean up a little bit. The we can get this thing rolling."

Eddie spent a few minutes in the bathroom on this floor of the facility. Afterward, he spent a few minutes making play lists on his iPod. When he was finally ready, he strolled back out to meet Archer in the "Doom Room". Eddie shook himself out a little bit, Clipped his iPod to his belt, made sure everything was secure, dropped his bag off in a corner, ran the cord for his headphones under his shirt and to his iPod and then stepped forward.

He bounced in place a little, not unlike a boxer might. "Animal I Have become" by Three Days Grace was playing through his headphones. The opening chords to the song were just finishing, and it was all he needed to get himself pumped up.

"I can't escape this hell...."


"So many times I've tried...

But I'm still caged inside

somebody get me through his nightmare


"Let's do this!"

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When Breakdown was ready, Mr. Archer stepped aside. "This is going to be a straight combat test to loosen you up, Eddie. I'm going to give you an opponent who's fighting on your level, so you can show me how you'd take him down." When Breakdown signaled he was ready, Archer called out "Run Program: The Greatest Show On Earth." The room rippled around Breakdown until he found himself standing in the middle of a flat rectangle vaguely familiar to him from television, surrounded on four sides by red, white and blue ropes. Standing opposite him, wrapped in a green tunic and "iron mask", was Dr. Darkness, the most famous "supervillian" wrestler of the XWF!

"Yer goin' doooown!" jeered the wrestler, pointing directly at Eddie. "You may be Breakdown, but you just stepped into the arena with the King! Of! Smackdown!"

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Eddie smiled. He bolted straight at Dr. Darkness...And ran straight past him, bouncing off the ropes. "Guess what?" Breakdown asked as he ricocheted off of the ropes and ran to the opposite side of the ring again.

Ricocheting once more, Breakdown through a solid right hook at Dr. Darkness. Nailing him right in the iron mask, he yelled, "Smack down this!?"

After delivering the blow, Breakdown thought for a second. I've got a song for this... He clicked a button on his iPod and a new song started up.

"You want to get in the ring with me? TRY IT!"

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"I got the moves to slip out of your pathetic grip!" Breakdown said through gritted teeth after taking a solid hit.

Breakdown slipped a hand down and tapped a button on his iPod. Suddenly, he simply slipped out of Dr. Darkness' grasp.

"I think it's time for you to cool off, jack!"

Breakdown began to project some of the jazz music toward Dr. Darkness.

Breakdown floated well above the ring, and hopefully out of Dr. Darkness' reach.

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Dr. Darkness waved his arms at Eddie a few times, his posture settling out of his fighting stance. When the wrestler stopped fighting, the simulation faded away, to be replaced by a nodding Mr. Archer. "That was good strategy, Eddie. I like the way you combined both combat and non-combat tactics, and thought on your feet." He smiled at his student-to-be, obviously pleased with his performance. He made a few notes on the clipboard he was carrying, then said, "All right, I think what we're going to try next is exploring your ability to concentrate. Just to confirm what's in your file, you don't have any phobias, do you?"

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Eddie floated back towards the ground. "Um... Actually, sir... I wasn't even planning that. This being my placement test and all, I am not going to lie about what I am and am not able to do. That was either sheer luck, or somehow, a really lucky lineup of natural ability and fortune.

"Fears? No... Not that I can think of really." Eddie thought for a moment. "As long as you don't start playing country music. I HATE country music!" Eddie's level expression bespoke that this was the most serious he would ever be about something. He clearly was not happy about the prospect of possibly having to listen to country music.

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"Don't worry, Eddie, there's no country music here. I'm not a monster," Mr. Archer joked. "Just stay calm and stay collected during this, as long as you can." He pressed a few buttons as the simulation changed around Eddie and he found himself in the middle of a dense, lovely forest. It was a fairly idyllic, pastoral scene, and between that and the soothing music on his iPod he was actually feeling fairly relaxed until he looked down and saw the ant crawling on his leg. First one, then two, then ten, then a thousand ants were crawling over his tender flesh, their little legs carrying them up inside his clothes and up over his body. He held out as long as he could against the insect horde, which wasn't actually hurting him, but when the hordes of spiders joined the ants it was too much for anyone with a mammalian central nervous system to resist. He felt his powers drop away as his mind was pulled sharply away from music by the spider crawling up inside his ear buds, and just before he'd have hit the ground the simulation, and simulated bugs faded away.

"Not bad, Eddie, not bad!" called Mr. Archer. "I know that one's pretty tough; you need a minute?"

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Eddie dropped to the ground on all fours suddenly, panting. "Um...Yea...One sec." He managed to gasp.

Eddie sat back on his haunches after taking a minute or two to recover. "You know..." he began, pulling off his headphones and sticking a finger in his ear to make sure there was nothing in there, "I may have to slightly adjust that list of things I am afraid of..." He looked up at Archer, his face a great deal more pale than it had been before the challenge.

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"Don't worry, Eddie, I've seen much worse reactions to that test," said Archer jovially. "All right, we've done your combat and concentration, I think we're ready to move onto your speed trials. I want to see how well you can catch a fleeing object. Run Save My Baby!" At his words, the simulation room changed into a street scene in downtown Freedom, almost shockingly realistic. As Eddie looked around, he saw a menacing-looking man with a black domino mask and shabby fatigues come running by him and snatch a baby right out of a woman's arms, before ducking into a nearby alley! "Oh no! Won't someone save my baby!?" she called out.

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"It's okay, ma'am!" Eddie yelled, breaking his reverie. He tapped another button iPod...

"Are you ready, Steve? Aha.

Andy? Yeah! Mick? OK.

Alright, fellas, let's go!..."

He looked the lady in the eye. "I'm on it. I'll save your baby." And he tore off round the corner after the kidnapper.

"Oh it's been getting so hard

Livin' with the things you do to me, aha

Oh my dreams are getting so strange

I'd like to tell you everything I see..."

That actually felt really good... Eddie thought to himself. I don't think I would mind doing this super hero thing more often!

"...Oh, I see a man at the back

As a matter of fact his eyes are red as the sun

And a girl in the corner let no one ignore her

'Cause she thinks she's the passionate one..."

Eddie quickly rounded the corner, setting his sights on his quarry, he had to run up the wall of the alley for a short distance just to be able to make the turn into the alley properly. Yea. I could get used to this!

"Oh, yeah, it was like lightning, everybody was frightening

And the music was soothing, and they all started grooving

Yeah, Yeah, Yeah, Yeah, Yeah..."

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Eddie put on a burst of speed to chase the man as he ran into the surprisingly crowded alley, dodging between dumpsters and busboys in a chase that reminded him more of a driver-training video than anything else. He put on his best effort to chase the guy, running faster and faster, but he just couldn't seem to close the distance. With the baby's cries in his ears, he put on another burst of speed only to watch the surprisingly fast man and baby run straight through a wall before him! The wall closed up smoothly before them, leaving him with a choice to make, and quickly!

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Thanks to Eddie's quick thinking, he reappeared right in the middle of a huge arena where, to his amazement, he saw babies being made to fight each other for the amusement of a jeering, malevolent crowd! It was all implausibly horrible, and fortunately snatching the originally stolen baby out of the hands of the thief brought an end to the deeply unlikely simulation. As the simulated baby cooed up at him with a big smile before fading away, he was left alone again in the middle of the testing area as Mr. Archer nodded approvingly. "Good work, Eddie! You really showed your flexibility there. All right, we've just got one more part to the test left. Are you ready?"

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"Thanks Mr. Archer." Eddie checked himself over and made ready for the next test. "You know, that actually felt really good. I could probably get to like this hero business."

Eddie's expression soured a little. "In any case, that test was a lot better than the one before it." He held one of his headphones away from his head, and twirled a finger around in his ear for a moment. He shuddered visibly for a moment.

Getting himself back on track, Eddie reset all of the playlists on his iPods and made sure that everything was in order. He then took a deep breath and said, "Okay, I am ready for the next one."

I hope...

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Mr. Archer had some programming to do before he could get the final test running, and in the meantime he and Eddie chatted. "So you're fairly new to Freedom City, right?" asked Mr. Archer convivially as he dug into the panel on the Doom Room wall to finish adjusting it. "What did you think about living around all these superheroes?"

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"This is the last part of the test," said Mr. Archer, not unkindly. "If you're going to be a superhero, Eddie, you need to think about what you're doing and why you're doing it. Lemme ask you this. Imagine you've just caught a really evil supervillian; a psychotic monster who you apprehended in the middle of a killing spree. You know he's just going to get off on an insanity plea and put in Providence Asylum, where they'll treat him real nice and give him lots of drugs. They may even let him out again after a couple of years, even if he's not cured all the way. He reminds you of that, too, and tells you he's just gonna fake being cured and get out to kill more women. You're alone with him as you arrest him; you can do whatever you want. What do you do?"

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